Women and Children First’s Senior Programmes Manager, Ruth Duebbert, returned recently from Uganda. This is what she had to say about her trip:

This was my first visit to Uganda and I was really taken aback by the challenges facing the communities we are working with. Above all I was taken struck by their resilience, warmth and friendliness.

Our project, being delivered in collaboration with AMREF Uganda, is located in Gulu and Amuru districts - the original home of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – which endured 20 years of civil war resulting in widescale displacement and some of the worst maternal and child death rates in the world.

Ros Davies, Women and Children First’s Chief Executive, was recently interviewed by International Innovation, a publication which disseminates science, research and technology.  International Innovation was interested to learn more about the many dangers and injustices faced by mothers and infants in resource poor settings, and how communities can work together to create effective interventions and reduce pregnancy related mortality and morbidity.

The article discusses Women and Children First’s priority areas for action and highlights the greatest benefits of running self-help women’s community groups. It also covers the wide range of factors which can affect mothers and babies during pregnancy, childbirth and in the following weeks and months and some of the most effective interventions to safeguard newborns.

The round table discussion in the same issue (No. 186) highlights Women and Children First’s contribution to reaching the Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction, child survival, maternal health and gender equality.  This was achieved through its work in communities and health facilities with partners in Asia and Africa, and its advocacy endeavours which increased UK government support for mothers and babies’ health in developing countries, garnered cross party Parliamentarian support in the UK and influenced the UK Department for International Development's policy on maternal health. Ros Davies also pointed out the need for political commitment, the application of appropriate policies and the need for adequate funding for maternal and newborn health.

Women and Children First took part in Small Charity Week for the first time in 2014.  We were so pleased with the results of the Ebay auction, which raised a fantastic £1,350, that we started planning really early in an endeavor to do even better in 2015.    

Everyone in our small team thought really hard about their friends and networks and contacted anyone they thought could help.  We were really delighted by the response. Our administrator tracked down a signed photo of Indira Varma, who plays Queen Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones.  Our generous trustee Patricia Croll donated a week in her luxurious holiday home in the South of France. Our amazing Patron Baroness Massey offered a private tour and tea for two at the House of Lords and our wonderful supporter, guitarist Tom McGuinness, donated a rare vinyl Manfred Mann album and persuaded all the original band members to sign it.  Feedback from last year’s bid winners showed that the holiday and House of Lords tour were very special experiences for the people who won them.

It is deeply shocking that one woman still dies every two minutes from pregnancy related conditions that are preventable or treatable - 99% of these deaths are in developing countries.

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has hailed the achievements of the millennium development goals (MDGs) but warns the world is still riven by inequality. More than a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty but there are still many people left behind.

The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day reduced from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015, but the target of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger was narrowly missed.

Nearly 60% of the world’s extremely poor people lived in just five countries – India, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Ban warns that familiar divisions and inequities are as stark as ever.

“Too many women continue to die during pregnancy or from childbirth-related complications,” he said. “Progress tends to bypass women and those who are lowest on the economic ladder or are disadvantaged because of their age, disability or ethnicity. Disparities between rural and urban areas remain pronounced.”

MDG4 – to reduce child mortality by two-thirds – has not been met. While the child mortality rate has declined by more than half over the past 25 years – falling from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births – this has not achieved the MDG target. Preventable causes of death for children under five - pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria – are still rampant and claim 16,000 lives a day.

The aspiration of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters has not been realized although the ratio has fallen by nearly half (from 380 deaths per 100,000 live births to 210). Today, only half of pregnant women in developing regions receive the recommended minimum of four antenatal visits, and a quarter of babies worldwide are delivered without skilled care. Postpartum haemorrhage accounted for 27% of maternal deaths in developing regions between 2003 and 2009; other major complications were high blood pressure during pregnancy, complications from delivery and unsafe abortion.

Women and Children First addresses these preventable causes of maternal and newborn deaths and has made significant contributions to achieving MDGs 4 and 5. You can help us do more – read how.

Women and Children First’s Senior Programmes Manager, Ruth Duebbert, returned recently from Ethiopia. This is what she had to say about her trip:

“This was my first visit to Ethiopia and I was really struck by the difficult conditions facing pregnant women and their families. I visited a remote health centre where babies can be delivered but no emergency caesareans can be performed – for that you would need to travel 17 miles, most likely on foot.

More remote still, I met the manager of a health post who recalled delivering two babies in the middle of the night, one after the other. This was done by the light of his mobile phone and he was unable to wash his hands at all. There is no water or electricity at the health post.

As a mum myself I cannot even begin to imagine having to give birth in such conditions."

The challenges in Ethiopia, especially in rural areas, are immense. With funding from Comic Relief, Women and Children First has begun working with the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) to set up 230 women’s groups, train 40 Health Extension Workers and 280 Health Development Army volunteers, introduce solar powered equipment, wells and an ambulance for emergencies.

Ethiopia has some of the world’s highest rates of maternal deaths and disabilities, with 19,000 women dying from childbirth-related causes each year. Every year, more than 257,000 children under age five die and 120,000 die in the first month of life. More than 60 percent of infant deaths in Ethiopia are newborn babies.

  • Only 10% of births take place in health facilities.
  • A staggering low 11% of births have a skilled attendant present
  • Cultural factors and traditional beliefs result in 30% of women giving birth at home
  • 60% see no value in skilled medical care.

Maternal and newborn health, family planning, midwife training and training in emergency obstetric and neonatal care are key priorities of the Ethiopian Government. But, despite efforts, the Government has not achieved its targets for increasing the use of facility-based maternal and newborn health services.

We are helping the Government to do more to raise demand to improve the range and quality of health services for mothers and babies.